A True Measure of Affordability: The H+T Affordability Index

Housing is a key component of any governments’ comprehensive urban plan.  The cornerstone of any good housing sector is a plan to provide affordable housing options so that all citizens have a place to call their own.  Traditionally, housing was considered affordable if it cost no more than 30% of an individual’s or family’s income.  Such a simplistic measure fails to account for a wide range of factors that can potentially affect the affordability of an area, key among them being transportation costs.  The Center for Neighborhood Technology believes that they may have rectified this problem with the creation of their Housing + Transportation (H+T) Affordability Index.

“The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) is a creative think-and-do tank that combines rigorous research with effective solutions. CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation and community development, energy, water, and climate change.”  In 2005, CNT set out to develop a tool that would more effectively measure the affordability of an area.  The first iteration of the H+T Affordability Index was released in 2006, focusing specifically on St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Since then, CNT has expanded the H+T Affordability Index to include 337 metropolitan areas in the US, covering over 80% of the population.

“The H+T Index offers an expanded view of affordability, one that combines housing and transportation costs and sets the benchmark at no more than 45 percent of household income. Under this view, the number of affordable neighborhoods drops to 28 percent, resulting in a net loss of 86,000 neighborhoods that Americans can truly afford.”